What’s one way your life has changed since being a stunt performer in Black Panther as a Dora Milaje?
One opportunity that came my way as a result of working on ‘Black Panther’ was being invited to work on a Jennifer Lopez music video where I played an African warrior queen.
Not only was it a lot of fun but it was interesting to have people embracing the idea of a regal female warrior who wasn’t pigeonholed as an angry black woman.
What was one challenge you overcame when preparing for your role in Black Panther?
It was my first time working as a stunt performer, so my biggest challenge was not allowing myself to be too intimidated by all the experienced people on set.
Fortunately, we had a couple of weeks of training before the shoot so I had plenty of time to practice. I also had a LOT of help and support from my colleagues on set before diving into the deep end.
When we met at Blerdcon, we briefly talked about the unpredictability of the movie industry. How do you stay centered and balanced when you don’t know where your next role will come from? Also, what keeps you centered in general?
Being an actor can be a pretty tough profession especially if you’re spending more time looking for work than actually doing work. So you really have to get clear on why you’re doing it and identify tools that help keep you engaged with your passion in spite of the ups and downs.
Finding ways to express my creativity regardless is essential and that can take form in a number of ways including taking classes, taking up passion projects on your own or collaborating with friends on independent projects.
I also love listening to artists I admire talk about their work and creative process; it’s incredibly inspirational.
My spiritual practice has supported me a lot through the years and I find that when I’m struggling, meditation helps me get centered and allows me to reflect on the causes I’m making that lead to suffering.
It’s hard to see the big picture when all your focus is on your problems but I think spiritual practice is most effective when it allows you to look at your life more expansively and recognize the fact that you’re connected to everyone and everything around you.
As a Black woman, where do you find strength and community in your industry?
It’s not always easy finding a creative community that feels like family in this business. I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with organizations like the African Artists’ Association which is a community of artists of African descent who meet regularly to network, encourage each other and get insights from professionals in the industry.
You can feel really isolated when you don’t have a strong support system so it’s really important to cultivate strong relationships.
I honestly don’t think I would be able to accomplish much if I didn’t have good friends and family providing moral support.
What’s something you wish you could say to your 16 year old self?
Don’t worry so much about living up to other people’s expectations. It’s ok to be yourself.
What’s something you’re working to unlearn?
That I’m not enough. That’s a huge one because it colors so many aspects of my life – am I good enough?
It’s never ending and just leads to paralysis or giving up on things before I even start.
So I’m actively working on turning my mentality around on the subject of worthiness through my spiritual practice and pursuing the task at hand in spite of the negative thoughts that come up.
We also talked about the power of storytelling, especially when it comes to the stories of our ancestors. Tell us about a story you’ve been working to tell.
I’ve been working on a project about telling my grandmother’s story. I have been on and off for the past few years actually.
It started years ago when I realized that I didn’t really know much about her so I embarked on this mission to learn more about her by asking her and other family members about her life.
The entire process made me realize how much we take for granted and how important it is to engage with older people in our families while we still have them. Working on the project has not only allowed me to get to know her better, but it’s made me feel far more connected to my heritage than I ever had before.
It’s easy to dismiss the past, but you carry it with you everyday whether or not you realize it. I’d rather look at it and learn from it than pretend it never happened.
When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?
I’m not always great at practicing self-care to be honest because I spend so much of my life giving away my time and attention to work, friends, family, etc. that I forget to set some of that aside for myself.
When I do remember, I make it a point to do something about it. It’s really important to refuel in order to be able to function properly in life.
What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?
I just discovered the work of Octavia Butler and for a minute there, I was losing sleep because I wasn’t able to put her books down.
She was an incredible writer and the fact that she wrote sci-fi/fantasy – a genre that black women are traditionally not associated with but consume as much as anyone – just warms my heart.
What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?
That every human life has value, that we are all interconnected and that karma don’t play (lol).
I’ve always had these values but when I started practicing Buddhism, I was able to articulate these ideas far more effectively.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to an actress struggling with self-doubt and feeling like giving up on their dreams?
Don’t give up. The world needs what you have to offer.
It’s years in the future. You’re on stage to accept an award for your life’s work. What’s your five word acceptance speech?
It has been my privilege.
Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you truly believe to be true. What would you say?
Shakespeare said it best with these words which will eternally ring true: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances.”
Learn more about Constance + connect
Constance Ejuma is an award-winning actress and producer with credits in television, film and theatre. She has been featured on shows like Scorpion, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders and Southland. She also worked as a stunt performer on the hit film Black Panther where she was featured as one of the famous Dora Milaje. Her work as a producer has led garnered her numerous awards including the coveted African Movie Academy Awards for her film Ben & Ara. Instagram. Twitter. Website.